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TEN YEARS SINCE THE ASIAN TSUNAMI

On Diwali Day, Krishnamurthy visits the beach with three of his daughters and a cousin close to their old home in Pudupettai. This is the first time the sisters had visited the beach since the tsunami. LtoR: Jayapriya, Bhanpriya and Sivaranjini. These photographs encompass four years in the lives of two families of children from South India who lost their mothers to the Asian tsunami. Following that momentous event in 2004, the five Krishnamurthy sisters from Puddupettai went to live in the Cuddalore Government Special Home for Tsunami Children. And Vijitha and Vijyashree Viswanathan, after an initial brief spell at the same home, now live with their father and his new wife in the nearby fishing village of Thalanguda.  Each child affected by the tsunami had to adapt to changed circumstances and cope with emotions no one in their family could have possibly anticipated. The younger children seemed to adjust more quickly than their older siblings. And, while grief rendered some silent, in others it provoked a real sense of anger. Some became withdrawn while others craved attention and resorted to disruptive behavior. For all of the children, the experience of losing a parent seemed to strengthen the bond they shared with their brothers and sisters.  The loss of a parent meant that some of the children photographed in this project inherited responsibilities that, while often a burden, provided a distraction from their own painful emotions. Sivaranjini Krishnamurthy lost her mother to the tsunami and then, together with her four younger sisters was abandoned by her father. At eleven years of age she took on the role of a mother to her younger sisters. Though she attends school and receives the support of orphanage staff, Sivaranjini has sacrificed much of her own childhood to take care of them.  For Sivaranjini and the other children whose experiences are presented here, the tsunami is a defining event in their lives; the terrible personal upheaval they have suffered (Tom Pietrasik)Sisters Bhanpriya and Sivaranjini Krishnamurthy who lost their mother to the tsunami, play on the beach at Pudupettai. Tamil Nadu, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2006

It is difficult to believe that it is already ten years since the Boxing Day tsunami destroyed thousands of lives across coastal south and south east Asia. Indonesia bore the brunt of the waves but many lives were also lost in Sri Lanka and south India.

 A fishermen returns with his catch on the coast that runs behind Samanthanpettai village on the northern outskirts of Nagapattinam. This area saw the greatest devastation in India by the Asian Tsunami of 2004. ..Photo: Tom Pietrasik.Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, India..October 18th 2006 (Tom Pietrasik)A fishermen returns with his catch on the coast near Nagapattinam. This area saw the greatest devastation in India by the Asian tsunami of 2004. Tamil Nadu, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2006

I was living in New Delhi at the time and arrived on the Sri Lankan coast 24 hours after the first waves hit the shore. It was difficult for anyone to comprehend the scale of the disaster and it took many months and years for those affected to recover. While the destructive force of the tsunami itself generated significant international interest, it was the slower process of rehabilitation that provided insight into just how individuals and institutions cope with and respond to calamity and grief.

 Vijyashree (left, age 7) and Vijitha Viswanathan (age 9) with their maternal grandmother Govindammal (age 70) at her home in the Pudhupattinam tsunami temporary relief camp. These photographs encompass four years in the lives of two families of children from South India who lost their mothers to the Asian tsunami. Following that momentous event in 2004, the five Krishnamurthy sisters from Puddupettai went to live in the Cuddalore Government Special Home for Tsunami Children. And Vijitha and Vijyashree Viswanathan, after an initial brief spell at the same home, now live with their father and his new wife in the nearby fishing village of Thalanguda.  Each child affected by the tsunami had to adapt to changed circumstances and cope with emotions no one in their family could have possibly anticipated. The younger children seemed to adjust more quickly than their older siblings. And, while grief rendered some silent, in others it provoked a real sense of anger. Some became withdrawn while others craved attention and resorted to disruptive behavior. For all of the children, the experience of losing a parent seemed to strengthen the bond they shared with their brothers and sisters.  The loss of a parent meant that some of the children photographed in this project inherited responsibilities that, while often a burden, provided a distraction from their own painful emotions. Sivaranjini Krishnamurthy lost her mother to the tsunami and then, together with her four younger sisters was abandoned by her father. At eleven years of age she took on the role of a mother to her younger sisters. Though she attends school and receives the support of orphanage staff, Sivaranjini has sacrificed much of her own childhood to take care of them.  For Sivaranjini and the other children whose experiences are presented here, the tsunami is a defining event in their lives; the terrible personal upheaval they have suffered will inevitably shape all of their futures.  Photo: Tom Pietrasik Tami (Tom Pietrasik)Vijyashree & Vijita Viswanathan with their mathernal grandmother Govindamma at her home in the Pudhupattinam tsunami temporary relief camp, six moths after the tsunami. Tamil Nadu, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2005

Working initially with The Times Magazine in London and later with UNICEF, I followed the lives of children from south India who lost parents in the tsunami. My photographs, taken over a period of four years focussed on the lives of two families of children from Tamil Nadu state who lost at least one of their parents to the tsunami.

 Anjalakshi, age 9, (in red) visits a temple in Pudupettai to mark the Hindu festival of Diwali. She is accompanied by their sisters and maternal grandmother Chitra (yellow sari). The Krishnamurthy sisters spent the Diwali weekend visiting relatives while staying with their father in their home town of Puddupettai.  The five Krishnamurthy sisters from Pudupettai in Tamil Nadu lost their mother to the 2004 Asian Tsunami. Their father declared himself unable to raise his daughters and, like many other tsunami widowers, placed them in the care of a government orphanage. He has since remarried. The sisters, now aged between 6 and 14, have lived with 120 other orphaned children in Cuddalore's Government Home for Tsunami Children since January 2005. Though of course the detail of their lives is unique, the Krishnamurthy sisters share many experiences with other tsunami-orphans in Tamil Nadu and across the tsunami-affected region.  According to staff at the government home, Sivaranjini, age 14, has begun to loose interest in her studies. She fared badly in recent examinations which staff attribute to the poor education she received before the tsunami. The other four sisters are doing well at school. Sivaranjini continues to be a very committed elder sister, undertaking many of a tasks for which a mother would normally be responsible. Sivaranjini washes her sisters' clothes, helps with their studies, offers affection and, when appropriate, administers punishment.  Krishnamurthy, the sisters father, visits the orphange once or twice a month. His sister Kamasala visits more regularly but reserves most of her attention for Sivapriya, age 12. Sivapriya used to live with her paternal aunt before the tsunami. Like other children at the orphange, the five sisters also spend religious festivals and the annual school holidays with their father and extended family. During these periods the Krishnamurthy sisters are treated to gifts and lavished attention from family and friends in (Tom Pietrasik)Anjalakshi Krishnamurthy, age 9, (in red) visits a temple in Pudupettai with relatives during the Hindu festival of Diwali. Anjalakshi lost her mother to the tsunami. Tamil Nadu, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2007

Each child had to adapt to changed circumstances and cope with emotions no one in their family could have possibly anticipated. The younger children seemed to adjust more quickly than their older siblings. And, while grief rendered some silent, in others it provoked a real sense of anger. Some children became withdrawn while others craved attention and resorted to disruptive behaviour. For all of the children, the experience of losing a parent seemed to strengthen the bond they shared with their brothers and sisters.

While her step-mother makes breakfast, Vijyashree Viswanathan cares for her brother at home in Thalanguda. Vijyashree lost her mother and first brother to the Tsunami. Since then her father has remarried and now has two children by his second wife. Vijitha and Vijyashree Viswanathan, now age 12 and 10, lost their mother and younger brother to the 2004 Asian Tsunami. The sisters continue to live with their father Viswanathan in a small house in the fishing village of Thalanguda, 5km from Cuddalore. The house does not have a toilet and water is supplied for only a short period of the day. Viswanathan married Kayalvizhi just over a year after the tsunami and the couple now have a son born in December 2006. Of the two sisters it was the elder Vijitha who initially appeared more distressed at her mother's death. But in the subsequent three years she has come to terms with her loss and seems better equipped to face the challenges of growing up without the support of her mother. In contrast Vijyashree, whos younger age may have insulated her from some of the grief experience by her sister, has fallen back in her studies becoming moody, withdrawn and reticent. Vijyashree has suffered fits for a number of years but in the past twelve months these have become more frequent. Viswanathan blames the drugs prescribed to treat his daughter's condition for her moodiness. Another explanation could be the arrival of Vijyashree's half-brother Sanjay with whom she must now compete for the affections of her father. Kayalvizhi does not appear particularly sensitive to the needs of her adopted daughters though her position cannot be easy, particularly when burdened with the task of raising a baby. Viswanathan's sister-in-law Shanthi is especially scathing of Kayalvizhi's indifference to Vijitha and Vijyashree and questions whether the girls should be expected to clean the house, clean utensils and prepare themselves for school. Shanthi complains that the girls must come to her for affect (Tom Pietrasik)Vijyashree Viswanathan, age 10, cares for her brother at home in Thalanguda. Vijyashree lost her mother and first brother to the Tsunami. Since then her father has remarried and now has two children by his second wife. Tamil Nadu, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2007

The loss of a parent meant that some children I photographed inherited responsibilities that provided distraction from their own painful emotions. Sivaranjini Krishnamurthy lost her mother to the tsunami. She and her four younger sisters were then placed in an orphanage by their father. At twelve years old, Sivaranjini took on the role of a mother to her younger sisters. Though she continued to attend school and received the support of orphanage staff, she sacrificed much of her own childhood to take care of her siblings.

For Sivaranjini and the other children whose experiences I photographed, the tsunami of 2004 was a defining event in their lives and the terrible personal upheaval they suffered shaped all of their futures. I will be thinking of them today.

Vijitha places flowers in the sand on the beach close to the location of her mother's death in the tsunami.  These photographs encompass four years in the lives of two families of children from South India who lost their mothers to the Asian tsunami. Following that momentous event in 2004, the five Krishnamurthy sisters from Puddupettai went to live in the Cuddalore Government Special Home for Tsunami Children. And Vijitha and Vijyashree Viswanathan, after an initial brief spell at the same home, now live with their father and his new wife in the nearby fishing village of Thalanguda.  Each child affected by the tsunami had to adapt to changed circumstances and cope with emotions no one in their family could have possibly anticipated. The younger children seemed to adjust more quickly than their older siblings. And, while grief rendered some silent, in others it provoked a real sense of anger. Some became withdrawn while others craved attention and resorted to disruptive behavior. For all of the children, the experience of losing a parent seemed to strengthen the bond they shared with their brothers and sisters.  The loss of a parent meant that some of the children photographed in this project inherited responsibilities that, while often a burden, provided a distraction from their own painful emotions. Sivaranjini Krishnamurthy lost her mother to the tsunami and then, together with her four younger sisters was abandoned by her father. At eleven years of age she took on the role of a mother to her younger sisters. Though she attends school and receives the support of orphanage staff, Sivaranjini has sacrificed much of her own childhood to take care of them.  For Sivaranjini and the other children whose experiences are presented here, the tsunami is a defining event in their lives; the terrible personal upheaval they have suffered will inevitably shape all of their futures.  Photo: Tom Pietrasik Tamil Nadu, India December 2008 THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS THE COPYRIGHT OF (Tom Pietrasik)Vijitha Viswanathan places flowers in the sand on the beach close to where her mother died in the 2004 Asian tsunami. Tamil Nadu, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2008

SURVEY ON THE ETHICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY

A couple at a Kolkata market. Photo: Tom Pietrasik April 14th 2014 Kolkata, India (Tom Pietrasik)Posing for a portrait usually indicates consent to be photographed. A young couple out shopping on a busy weekend in Kolkata. India ©Tom Pietrasik 2014

The British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) are working with The School for International Development at UEA to conduct a survey on the ethics of photographing development issues. I’d been directed to this survey by Duckrabbit who frequently discuss such issues on their blog.

If you are a photographer and/or filmmaker, please consider offering your thoughts too. It should not require too much time to answer the nine questions – though I certainly spent more than the five minutes Duckrabbit suggested it would take!

I’ve listed my lightly-edited response to the main questions in the survey below. My answers are not intended to be all-encompassing but they do summarise my thoughts, particularly on the subject of consent about which I’ve written before.

At home Vasanti (centre) and daughters Shrudha, 10 (HIV positive, in pink), Shubhada, 11 (HIV negative, foreground) and Vrinda, 8 (status not known). Vasanti Shinde, 26, works for the Save Foundation.  Like many of the women who work for and with UNDP partners the Save Foundation, Vasanti Shinde, age 26, only found out that she was HIV positive after her husband became seriously ill with an AIDS-related illness five years ago. Vasanti's husband subsequently died. Vasanti now lives with her two younger daughters Shrudha, age 10, and Vrinda, 8, in the one-room home of her brother in Sangli city. Vasanti's elder daughter, eleven year old Shubhada is being brought up by her paternal grandmother and sees her mother during holidays. Vasanti knows that Shubhada is HIV negative and Shruda is positive but anxiety over the result means that she refuses to have Vrinda tested for HIV. For a monthly income of Rs.3500, Vasanti works as a field officer and counselor for the Save Foundation. She works in the positive-people's pharmacy for no pay. Her work with the Save Foundation entitles her access to a credit union which provides low interest loans covering medical expenses. Though first-line drugs and homeopathic medicine keep Vasanti healthy, she is prone to infection and recently suffered a bout of influenza. Vasanti is completely open about her HIV status and most of her neighbours know that she is HIV positive. Vasanti says that "I used to feel like I was going to die. Now, because of the Save Foundation, I feel like I'm going to live."  Photo: Tom Pietrasik Sangli, Maharashtra. India August 28th 2008 (Tom Pietrasik)Vasanti Shinde provided me written consent to photograph her at home with her daughters. Shinde works for an HIV-positive network called the Save Foundation and is open about her HIV-positive status. Maharashtra, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2008

What are the ways you collect consent for ethical usage of images ? e.g. written, audio, video, other. Explain. If I am photographing a sensitive subject like HIV/AIDS I will get written consent (as with the photograph above). If I am photographing any other situation that involves me going into someone’s private space, I will ask for consent but this is almost always aural and I rarely record this consent. If people decline then of course I do not photograph them.

While it is incredibly important to respect the people you photograph I have worked extensively in India and I sometimes wonder what value a consent form has when presented to an illiterate person who has little understanding of the world beyond their village. In India (and perhaps other countries too), there is a reluctance to sign your name to anything. Many families have lost land or relinquished rights because they have signed their name on a piece of paper. In this context, the logical response to someone holding out a consent form is to ask: what do they want to take from me?

 Market traders and busy traffic during evening rush hour in Dhaka.      Photo: Tom Pietrasik Dhaka, Bangladesh November 9th 2014 (Tom Pietrasik)This man knew I was photographing him. He was in a public space so I did not consider that I required more formal consent. A market trader and busy traffic during evening rush hour in Dhaka. Bangladesh ©Tom Pietrasik 2014

If I am in a public area, I do not seek the consent of everyone who is depicted in the photograph because this is just not practical. I look at photographs, past and present, that have real historical or cultural value. I think it unlikely that all but a very few (whether in the Developed or Developing world) were taken with explicit consent. Yet these photographs can be incredibly valuable in expressing empathy and contributing to our understanding of each other and of the past. Some of these photographs record significant historical events. Photography that is authentic and true to a subject must be encouraged when so many photographs that do involve consent (advertising, selfies etc) are concocted images of reality.

How do you capture an ethical representation of your subject to avoid issues like cultural or stereotypical misrepresentations?  When photographing, I hope to influence my subjects as little as possible. This is of course never completely achievable but by remaining an observer, reducing my input into a scene and revealing as little of my own feelings as possible, I try to capture activity as authentically as possible. For example – without being rude – I do not respond when children play to the camera. Capturing photographs of children doing what children do when there is no camera is the outcome I seek. I also think respecting the dignity of a subject is fundamental. I ask myself: would I be happy to be photographed in this way?

Sameer plays an evening game with his children Salina and Shabikur outside their home. The rag-picking community of Shanti Busti (literally "Peace Slum") which comprises 210 households have been living and working in Lucknow for the past twenty years. Originally from Assam, their language and culture differs from the wider population of Lucknow who speak Hindi. The low status of the rag-pickers' work together with their minority status as Muslims speaking Assamese makes them particularly vulnerable to stigma and discrimination. The rag-pickers also suffer insecurity of tenure over the land upon which Shanti Busti is built. Families pay a rent of INR100-150 (GB£1.25-GB£1.90) to a "landlord" who provides then some protection from eviction by the government. The community's status is further undermined by the fact that many in wider society falsely charge them with being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. This effectively denies the rag-pickers claim to any of the rights and services afforded to other Indians including the right to vote. Without political representation the people of Shanti Busti rely on the work of Oxfam and its partners for the provision of basic services.  Sahera Khatoon is ten years old. She lives with her two parents and five of her six siblings in a small shack built of discarded plastic sacking and bamboo poles. Sahera's father Sameer and mother Zohra arrived from Barpeta district in Assam 21 years ago. They and their families were poor landless labourers suffering the financial insecurity that comes with irregular work. Like many of their neighbours in Barpeta district, they were encouraged to make the journey to Lucknow by a refuge contractor who promised a regular income in return for their labour. It is a measure of the desperate circumstances faced by Sameer and Zohra that their life in Shanti Busti is preferable to the circumstances they left behind in Barpeta district. Collecting rubbish is hazardous and as well as the health-risks o (Tom Pietrasik, Tom Pietrasik, To/Tom Pietrasik)Photographing people whose experience and culture is very different from my own requires sensitivity and respect. A man from the rag-picking community of Shanti Busti plays with his children after a day of work. Lucknow, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2008

If you are given a brief which is different to your working process or may conflict with your ethical practices; how would you handle this? I would make my feelings known. I like to think people assign me because of my approach and the experience I can bring to a project and will therefor respect my opinion when planning for an assignment. There are times when I have photographed events which I’m not entirely comfortable with. For example a British celebrity in the home of a bewildered rural Indian family. I certainly would not want to photograph these situations every day (and do so rarely) but I do not consider this sufficient a conflict in my mind to warrant me declining the work.

Permission to make this video on post-conflict resolution in Uganda for Christian Aid required the payment of a fee to the head of the village in which I filmed.

Do you think people should be paid for being photographed? (e.g. cash, food, transport, given copies of photos). Consider your answer in relation to context and cultural norms. ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and please explain why. I would say no but if someone has taken a day off work to be photographed then I would compensate them for their time. I almost never pay people for being photographed or filmed. I worked in Uganda recently and the only way to film people in a particular village (see video above) was to pay the head of the village. But paying almost always influences the relationship between a photographer and a subject. Subjects are more likely to perform for the camera. They might walk to into a public street and be photographed alongside a dozen others who may also want to be paid and resent it when they are not. It is much better to arrange for copies of photos to be given as compensation.

Anoopi (with paler green paisley-design sari) And others from the Saharia community challenge a Public Distribution System (PDS or government ration system) employee (on bike) about the failure to supply forty Sahariya people a ration card renewal...Anoopi from Gopalapura's Sahariya community in Shivpuri District, has no real household. She works a domestic servant for six Sikh families for which she receives Rs.20 (£0.25) from each per month. Anoopi also collects medicinal leaves and bark from the forest which is sold on to a broker. She is not aware of how much her labour is worth to the brokers but she earns about Rs.5-10 per bundle of leaves she collects...Sahariya are an indiginous tribe who traditionally lived in and off the forest. Residing in the north Indian states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and parts of Madhya Pradesh (MP) including Shivpuri District, they have never been granted proper land-owning rights. As a result they have endured a fragile existence, working as agricultural day-wage labourers they have been unable to plan for the future or save for hard times. The community suffer from malnutrition, low levels of literacy and under-representation in the administration and government. The Indian Forest Ministry accuse the Sahariya of trespassing government land and many Sahariya have been forced to migrate in search of jobs. Recent migrants to Shivpuri District in MP, including the Sikh and higher caste Gujjar community, have been more adept at claiming land rights, often at the expense of the Sahariya. Since the mid-1990s however the Sahariya have been granted the lease of land from the government allowing them to sow crops including wheat, chick-peas and soya beans both for the market and their own needs. Over this period, the Sahariya have become more organised and confident at confronting local prejudice and official indifference to their plight. Drought and poor harvests between 2000 and 2004 set the community back but since then they have (Tom Pietrasik)The public-interest should take precedence if objections are raised to a photograph being taken. Residents of the low-caste Saharia community challenge a government employee about his failure to supply them ration cards. Madhya Pradesh, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2007

What advice would you give to an inexperienced photographer about collecting consent? Make sure people understand why you are photographing them. If they raise an objection, walk away. It is wrong to photograph in such a situation (unless in the public interest: for example a public official failing to fulfil their duty as in the photograph above) and you rarely end up with decent photographs anyway. 

CNN INTERVIEW ME ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHING IN INDIA


CNN International just interviewed me about my experience of photographing in India as part of their series Parting Shots. Its a short segment in which I discuss the privilege of working in India over the past fifteen years and my thoughts on issues around the recent national election.

CNN have also recently profiled the work of photographers Arash Khamooshi and Steve McCurry as part of this series.

TRANSGENDER CANDIDATE IN INDIAN ELECTION


If harbouring a secret ever caused Bharathi Kannamma to feel a sense of shame, she certainly shows no sign of it today. Living as a man until ten years ago, Kannamma is now a transgender woman. Until the age of 43, she kept her feminine feelings to herself. It was only when her mother died in 2004 that Kannamma came out, began to dress as a woman and lived openly as a transgender person.

Bharathi Kannamma, Independent candidate for Madurai in Indian Election 2014. Photo: Tom Pietrasik April 2014 Madurai, India (Tom Pietrasik)Bharathi Kannamma launches her campaign for election among the morning traffic in a suburb of Madurai. Madurai, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2014

Determined, self-effacing and confident, she is now touring Madurai, campaigning as an independent candidate in the Indian national election for which voting is currently underway. At the beginning of April, I spent a few days filming Kannamma and her small entourage of supporters in south India for the Guardian newspaper.

Bharathi Kannamma, Independent candidate for Madurai in Indian Election 2014. Photo: Tom Pietrasik April 2014 Madurai, India (Tom Pietrasik)My interview with Bharathi Kannamma. Madurai, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2014

As Kannamma tells an policeman in the film, she is not standing on a platform narrowly defined by the interests of transgender people but is appealing to all, most particularly the poor. And it was in the less-salubrious neighbourhoods of Madurai that I saw the greatest affinity between Kannamma and the electorate – especially poor women. Having suffered herself, Kannamma’s appeal to this community felt genuine. She spoke to them without condescension, delivering her message in a blunt style that would have felt false had it been uttered by one of her mainstream rivals,

“If we don’t have water to clean our arse, whats the point of living?”

Bharathi Kannamma, Independent candidate for Madurai in Indian Election 2014. Photo: Tom Pietrasik April 2014 Madurai, India (Tom Pietrasik)Kannamma visits neighbourhoods in the early morning and late evening – times when she is most likely to attract the ears of the electorate. Madurai, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2014

Though there are many obstacles ahead, this is an exciting time for India’s LGBT community.  The 2014 election is the first in which both voters and candidates can define themselves as transgender. And only last week the Supreme Court ruled that third gender people have the same rights as men and women. Penal code 377 which criminalises gay sex is still very much in place but this draconian law continues to be debated in the courts and there is an increasing sense that it will soon be dispensed with – over 150 years after the British introduced it.

Bharathi Kannamma, Independent candidate for Madurai in Indian Election 2014. Photo: Tom Pietrasik April 2014 Madurai, India (Tom Pietrasik)Kannamma discusses her election pledges with the press on a busy market street in central Madurai. Madurai, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2014

In Kannamma’s home state of Tamil Nadu, where transgender people are known as aravanis, there have been further gains. In 2009, the state government began providing sex-change surgery free of cost. Tamil Nadu also provides special third gender ration cards, passports and reserved seats in colleges. And 2008 saw the launch of Ippudikku Rose, a Tamil talk-show fronted by India’s first transgender TV-host.

As I have written about on other occasions here and here, none of these gains have been bestowed upon the community. They are the result of a long and ongoing struggle by ordinary Indian LGBT people including Bharati Kannamma.

Madurai votes on April 24th and counting takes place on May 16th.

INDIA’S 2014 ELECTION HAS BEGUN

A band plays music at a DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) pre-election rally in Chennai at which leader  M.K. Stalin spoke.  Photo: Tom Pietrasik April 6th 2014 Chennai, India (Tom Pietrasik)A drummer and his band play at a political rally ahead of the 2014 Indian election. Chennai, India ©Tom Pietrasik 2014


Voters in Tamil Nadu state don’t go to the polls until April 24th but while in Chennai yesterday I came across a political rally for the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) party. There was a festive atmosphere with flags, fireworks and very loud music by this drummer and his band. The 2014 Indian election is an incredible undertaking with 717 million registered voters, 533 constituencies, 8,070 candidates and 370 political parties.